More than 30 years ago, Larry Jacob and Sandra Belin met at Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman’s legendary farm in Maine. They fell in love and decided to start a small, diversified organic farm in California. While Larry and Sandy were wonderful vegetable farmers, they found that there were already many growers doing the same thing and doing it well. They had an “aha! moment” and thought of growing culinary herbs and edible flowers instead.
Today, Larry and Sandy’s farm is the country’s No. 1 organic herb supplier. We at Bon Appétit are proud to buy Jacobs Farm culinary herbs and edible flowers at many of our Northern California cafés through our regional distributor, SF Specialty.
Thanks to many personal experiences using Jacobs Farm products – their herbs roasted alongside root vegetables and flowers scattered atop my salad – I’ve been curious about what their California Central Coast operation looks like. Recently, Bon Appétit’s East Coast Fellow, Carolina Fojo; our new Midwest Fellow, S.K. Piper, and I went out to visit the farm in Pescadero, CA. We met with Jacobs Farm Regional Production Manager Emily Freed, like me another former apprentice at the University of Santa Cruz Farm and Garden, for a tour. Jacobs Farm is 300 acres plus 1 million square feet of greenhouse space filled with wonderfully pungent smells, intensely flavorful tastes, and beautiful, brightly colored flowers. From fields of lemon thyme, mint grapefruit, and sorrel to rows of snap dragons, bachelor buttons, and nasturtiums, Jacobs farm has almost every culinary addition I can dream up to augment my kitchen.
But I was impressed by more than just the scale of production — this is one of the largest farms I’ve visited on my travels — and culinary variety and quality. Jacobs Farm also offers great benefits to its employees, something that I care a lot about. This year, through their “Food for Us” program, five acres has been devoted to growing tomatoes, red and yellow potatoes, radishes, and other organic vegetables for the farm’s 105 field workers to take home to their families. Jacobs Farm pays all of their workers more than minimum wage; offers health care, dental care, and a 401(k) plan; and provides paid time off and end-of-year bonuses. These benefits are hard to come by in farm work! (To read more about socially just employers, check out my previous blog post.)
The next time you’re picking up herbs at the grocery store or enjoying a flavorful meal in one of our Northern California cafés, you’ll know and be able to share with your friends a little bit about of one of the sources – Jacobs Farm.